Sunday, 22 May 2011

India – The first Kama Sutra temple

May 16-17

Hello everyone!

Warning: some of the content of this blog is of an adult nature, and may not be suitable for people under the age of…umm…oh whatever. We all watched an 18-certificate film (U.S. translation: R-rated movie) before we turned eighteen (U.S. translation: before you turned…R?? How does that work, really). Most drink alcohol before they are 18/19/21 years old. This blog is about sex. If you don’t like that, fine. Go and watch Cartoon Network, and dream about being an astronaut.

Let’s step back a day, though. I arrived in Delhi in Monday morning and headed straight to Bashir’s place. Don’t think I’ve been scavenging off Bashir and his friends without offering anything in return. I presented him with my prized possession – my Wales flag. So many memories with that – well, Chennai. That is a long time ago. Many places have been visited inbetween those two behemoths. Bringing us back to Delhi, I was reluctant to venture into the 43’C (109’F) sauna that was the outside world, but it was required. That’s the price of your filthy five-year-old satchel breaking.

I tried two new markets. I bought a replacement bag at the second location; the backpacker area known as Paharganj. I probably wouldn’t have liked Delhi if I had stayed there. The first market, Palika Bazaar, was of much greater interest to me. Why? I had finally found the main market for…ssshhh…counterfeit produce. Down some steps under Connaught Place are regal ‘Rolex’ watches, awesome ‘Adidas’ flip-flops and…’R-Sun’ shades. Amongst the chaos and the squeeze I bought two of these three.

So an overnight train is taken – second night in a row without a proper bed – and I disembark in a town called Khajuraho. It is in Madhya Pradesh (the 11th state I have visited in India), and is even hotter than Delhi. This – possibly aside from Las Vegas – may be the hottest day I have ever endured in my life. I have it as either 45’C or 46’C – one shopowner insisted it had reached 49’C.

People die in this heat, yet paradoxically I was here for the act which leads to birth. Khajuraho is home to three groups of World Heritage temples which possess very elaborate, powerful – and erotic – sculptures. The visions suggested in the texts of the Kama Sutra are brought to life on the walls of the Khajuraho Monuments.

Before I continue along this most sleazy of trails that I followed, I will sift the mundane from the magnificent and the bizarre. Not every temple is solely decorated with erotica. Religious deities and depictions of epic battles are just as common as bosoms. Of the more sexual sculptures, only a select few showcase the ‘positions’ famed and portrayed in the Kama Sutra. Many are just naked or topless women. Trust me when I say that this is not a negative, though. What I’m trying to expose here is that these temples are much more than sculpted pornography.

After a breakfast of chai and a masala dosa – I have missed the South Indian breakfast staple – I armed myself with a bottle of water and ventured to the western temples. This is the largest collection of the three, and the one which pulls Rs250 from your pocket. Venturing clockwise around the ten temples and shrines, a pattern emerges. Each is made of sandstone; each houses a cooler, darker and less preserved interior; and each possesses brilliant, absorbing storyboards and figurines on its exterior. All were constructed between AD 950 and 1050 under the rule of the Chandela dynasty – seemingly an era of enlightenment and liberal thinking far beyond its time.

Also, a time when Indian women had very large curvaceous breasts jutting away from and over flat stomachs. Either they are exaggerated or the shape of the local women has changed markedly in the last millennium. Often they are posing in dancing shapes, but other princesses of promiscuity are joined by men or animals. Or both, though that is rare. No sheep, which was somewhat disappointing for this young Welshman. Some of the images – woman reaching up with smile to body part of what seems to be a dragon or horse – are disturbing.

Other images – man with arm around woman, facing as if looking into the distance whilst his girl admires him – are cute and romantic. The next stage – man entering woman in various positions – is a natural follow-up to this. Not much imagination required there.

The carvings of sexual positions are known as mithuna, and this is where the creative and inventive abilities of the people involved really expresses itself. The one that will mystify me for decades to come is the pose that defies most laws of physics – the headstand routine. Sex is a natural characteristic of human life and existence, but balancing on head to perform the act is most certainly not. Well, I haven’t tried, but I can’t imagine it is.

Enough of this seedy showmanship! In spite of what you may think, there are a finite number of one-metre figures you can observe and admire before it becomes repetitive, no matter how voluptuous they may appear. But this was only one group of temples so, after a quick nap to escape the oppressive heat of the middle of the day, I hired a bike and rode bumpily to the southern and eastern temples.

Remember how I only learned how to cycle last year? Well, I’m still in the habit of forgetting the basics. Like braking. It took a man shouting ‘BRAKE’ after I bumped into him – and soon after I had careered into an unfortunately-placed stationary bike – that I remembered this vital function. The other temples were great – still laced with erotica and religion – but you only pay for the western temples, and there is a reason for that.

After chatting to locals over chai outside the largest of the eastern temples – I must learn not to mention ‘government’ to an Indian, they all have plenty of strong opinions on that matter and I often struggle to interject – I observed the Sun fall gently behind the western temples for a sunset that was similar to the one I witnessed at the Taj Mahal. You would think that this would lead to a dip in the temperature, but not so. Liquid all over.

Food, shopping and a rickshaw to the train station led me to my exit from Khajuraho, with the third successive night without a bed in a room. It is a town that will make you the deepest shade of crimson – if not from blushing at the incredible architecture, then from the heat – but it is definitely worth a visit. These temples are unique and, even ignoring the nature of the intricate sculptures, are some of the best-designed, constructed and preserved that I have ever seen. Maybe even something you would stand on your head for…

Love you all


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